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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  July 5, 2011 12:30pm-1:30pm EDT

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>> charlie: wcome to our program. on this july 4th, present a rebroadcast of our cversation with one of our favorite guests, the eminent historian and author david mccullough. his new book is called the greater journey, americans in paris. >> i tell the story of who we are, what we've been through, what we've accomplished and what we've failed to accomplish, what we've accomplished about people who were here before we were to whom we owe more, far more than we generally appreciate. i hope that i make up for the
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failure that many people had when going to school and derstanding the joy of histor thehe please of history. yes we should know history because it makes us a better citizen, yes we should know history because it will help us in the roles of leadership and responsibility. but we should also know our history because it's part of the experience of being alive. why seal yourself up from that other time. it would be as if you sai there's no more music in my life, or art or theatre in my life or dance. >> charlie: david mccullough for thhour, next. every story needs a hero we can all root for.
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who beats the odds and comes out on top. but this isn't just a hollywood storyline. it's happening every day, all across america. every time a storefront opens. or the midnight oil is burned. or when someone chases a dream, not just a dollar. they are small business owners. so if you wanna root for a real hero, support small business. shop small. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose.
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>> charlie: david mccullough is here. he's been called a master of the art of narrative history. he is twice won both t litzer prize and the national book award. in 2006 he received the presidential med of freedom the nation's highest civilian award. his story teps tells of adventurous americans in the 19th century. he says not all pneers went west. it is called the greater journey, americans in paris. i'm very pleased to have david mccullough back at this table. welcome. >> thank you, charlie. i'm very glad to be back. i feel most at home. >> charlie: this table welcomes you didn't. here's what happened, i assume. mccullough wanted to spend time in paris so he said where's a story. >> nothing else. well, no, charlie, it didn't work that way. as much as i love tush able to
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sa it was that simple. i have been interested in paris since i was probably 15 when my older brother came back and sat at the dinner table in pittsburgh, p.a., talking about his experiences in paris. and i then went over requestmy wife rosalie in 61 -- indeed and i was then with the u. information agency. we were on our way to morocco. i was specializing in the middle east. we had never been out of the country. it was before jet travel we landed in paris after dark on a veryold februar night, raining like crazy. we checked into our hotel over in the left bank and went out and started walking. in the rain at night i
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february, miserable, miserable night. and we could not have been happier. and i've gone back since several times, because of work on my truman book, because of truman's experiences in world war i in france, because of my work in the panama canal book, because so much of that story is french. and a lot of the research for that subject was there, in paris. and then it went back again for adams, because he and abigail were there for a long time, and he played a crucial part during the revolutionary wear. the revolution war. what i really wanted to do was taking a look at a period which the adams franklin jeffeon me hadeen word over pretty well included by me. >> charlie: in the hemingway
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period. >> donep and down. and here was this -year gap a it was, in which some of the most interesting and influential americans ever were there and were greatly affected by the experience. and that threw me. i also feel strongly and i felt it increasingly as i thought more and more about the american story, that our history isn't just about generals and politicians. and that if we leave out the art, the music, the medicine, the realm of ideas, if we leave out educators and sculptures and architects, we're leaving out much not only of the subject matter of our sty, but the soul. >> charlie: and the permanence of a civilization. >> exactly.
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and there's a wonderf quote from john kennedy which i can't say it, that our power should no be st our strength shoul not be just in our wealth or military, our strength should be in what we contribute to civilization. and i felt that i had the chance with ts setting and this group of people that i could tell that story, i think, in a way that's never been done before. and ople say this is a very brave departe for you. it wasn't really at all. i was eager to do it and i never had a better time writing a book. >> charlie: why? well paris first of all. one thing, i couldcast it as i wish. with regular biography and history pretty much decided for you. there's an an obligatory line u
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have to follow. us can't skip someone because he bores you. this i could pick the people i wanted to wre about, and i could have mywn criteria for who made the cut and who didn't. in this case, it was, did they go there specifically to learn d to improve themselves in order to excel in their chosen field. did they keep a diary or write letters. were th changed byhe experience more than improvements in their skills as parenters and pianiss and di what they bring back matter. there's a lot of people who qualify for that criteria but you can't include them all, so otherwisit becomes a the
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catalog. so i picked those people whose story seemed to me the most compelling and whose fulfillment of the dream uly mattered to our country. >> charlie: you have said before that americans do not appreciate how much the culture comes from france. >> we do not. here we are in a country where our capital city was designed by a frenchman, whose revolutionary war was won largewe because of french financial backing and because of the presence of the french army. most people haveno id, for example, that the army under roschambow, was bigger than the army under washington. we have a country that was doubled in size basis of the louisiana purchase from napoleon.
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we have a country where the welcoming mbol of what we're abt stands at the harbor of our greatest port and a gift from france. all have you to do is look at a map of the country, all the rivers and towns and cities and colles and universities with french names. now we may not pronounce them exactly the way the french do but there they are. i'm not a frankophile. in fact i don't speak french very well at all. i can read it a little bit. but that's not the point. ias interested in those americans and i'm very interested in paris. i've been going over four years to do this book and i have been going over regularly over year. >> charlie: always stay at the same hotel. >> no, not always but most often we stay in a motel the louvre
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because that's where mark twain stayed, that's where hawthorne stayed and f.b. morris stayed. and it right in the heart of, as you know right beside the louvre on one side and the royale on the other side. and we look up on the opera house. it's exactly the view at the sheets in the back of the book. >> charlie: oh yes, yes. there you go. >> yes. and that image is tak from a postca that my mother bught back from paris when she was sevenyears oldin 1970. it was in ou aic. >> charlie: let me just touch on something you talked about. number one, when you decide this, when u say i found my subject, what's the next step for you? >> the form. what's the form of the book. once i have the form, then i'm ready to go. >> charlie: what's form mean?
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>> structure, the architecture. where does it begin, how does it end, where does it ends, what are you going to leave out. you can't put everything in. every work of art, a painting, nothing is in it by accident. and at best nothing's in the book by accident. but ao what's not in it is not in it by accident. >> charlie: it was a choice. >> a choice. and once i had the form and i was off and running. when i first wrote books, ias in college and i didn't know how to do this. it was do the research and write the book. i found the best way for me is to do the resear up to a point, may enoh to get me going. and then duty research -- do the research and writing as the book
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progresses. when you start writing, you are realize what you don't know and therefore you can target your investigation, your research more efficiently. >> charlie: it never starts for me until i began to start with the writing, whatever it is. you have to sit downnd start the process before you can give any form. and then it sort of falls into place in an interesting way. >>ight. there's an old expression you know very well. working your thoughts out on paper. >> charlie: exactly. >> that's what you're doing. i've never undertaken a subject about which i knew a lot. >> charlie: you discover -- >> i feel if i'm an expert i can't write the book. >> charlie: it's what you share -- >> it's as if i'm going to another place and having an adventure for the first time. when i begin, you asked how i feel, how much -- boy am i going to learn a lot. and that was certainly the case here. this was some characters that never heard of. >> charlie: you got to know a
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whole range of personalities. >> indeed i did. >> charlie: when you engage in which what brings you the most satisfaction. >> it's like being on a detective case, you get going on track and you want to know curiosity is accelerative. it's like gravity. and you wt to know more. and the the thrill getting closer to those people, i think that what appeals to me most of all. that these were people who were as alive as we are and who are limited in their perspective as to what was going to come next as we are. no such thing as a foreseeable future. and i want to bring them back to life. and i want to bring them back to life so that they get the credit
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they're long overdo you. >> charlie: if grandchild came to you and said papa i have never idea what i want to study in college. >> yes. >> charlie: wou you say study literature or history or languages? >> yes. all of the above. liberalize education, that's the best thing you can have. if somebody wanted to become a journalist, i woul say don't study journalism, study arabic or study philosophy, study -- i don't think there's a subject of more importance to anyone who assumes a role of leadership than history. >> charlie: history. >> it's essential. i think that all of our political ambitious political people are required to take a basic history course, tests, the way you would to get into the state department. >> charlie: and you want it to be not just american history but history around the world. >> around the world history. history is about cause and
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effect. >>harlie: cause and effect. >> about responsibility. >> charlie: action and reaction. >> exactly. mostly it about human beings, human nature. george marshall asked after he became secretary of state. >> charlie: having been in charge on the army during world war ii. >> he was asked did he he a good education at the virginia military institute. he said no i didn't. they said yn sir. he said we had no history. the point was people have to understa history. 's not coincidental, i don't think, that our exceptional president said well we had a very stronsense of history. they had all been readers and kept on reading. >> charlie: you look at the exceptional president is clearly it's washington and clearly it's lincoln and clearly it's fdr. who se is on your list. >> i would include john adams
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although he's not anxceptional president by stewards, he was an exceptional american, exceptional human being. and i include harry truman. >> charlie: you include harry truman. >> i'm not much at rating. >> charlie: i'm not asking you to rate i'm asking who is de serving of mention. >> washington, lincoln, fdr truman. charlie: here's what jn adams said that his generation, his generation should study war and politics so that their grandchildren could pursue fine ts. >> thas exactly what this book's about. this is pursuing the dream that adams had for the future generations. i'm going in and saying what did they do, how have they done. of course one of his descendants is in the book henry adams who may be the best historian. >> charlie: who is it you most want to tell us.
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>> oliver wendell holmes, sr. holmesas a poet and essayist. a very small man physically, five foot four in a pair of heavy boots. he was a poet, published pt and he was a medical student. he saw no incongruity deving his life to medical sign and writing poetries and writing essays and finding the monthly atlanta magazines. he was one that caught on to french and the whole way of life ther immiate. keep in mind charlie, they did not speak any frch, none of these people. french wasn't taught yet. modern european languages weren't taught in colleges. >> charlie: they had to learn the language when they arrived. >> yes. imagine you're plunged into
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medical school with thousan of students going to lectures, attending demonstrations of surgical processes and the like. and everything's in french. none of the other students speak english, and you've got to catch up. with a rigorous schedule that would be enough to exhaust anyone and not one of them to my knowledge ever quit. none of them said boy this is what i expected, i'm going hom >> charlie: oliver wendell homes, sr. was the father of t jurist on the supreme court. >> yes. he was an amazing man who spent 35 years teaching anatomy at the rvard medical school. charles sner one of the most important men in medical history. important because became the most power voice for -- in the senate where it nearl cost him his life where he was attacke
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on the senate floor and was nearly beaten to death. sumner had the revelation about the evil of slavery in paris. he was, he went over to study at the surbon, he felt he didn't know enough. he had been to harvard law school, he was practicing lawyer but he didn't know enough. and he had conceivable matters at the surbone lecture. he known that the black students had the same kinds of ambitions as he had. they acted just the same as everybody else, they were treated the same as everyone else. he said in his journal at the time, i wonder if how we treat black people back in my country has more to do with wt we were taught than the natural order of
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things. an this was an epiphany f him. came home, got involved with politics, got into the senate and became this voice, second only to lln in his importance. that happened in paris much that's what he brout home from paris. another major character in my view is augustus, the great sculpture which was a great american story. here's an emigra shoemaker's kid, grew up on the streets of new york. gang fights and all that. put to work when he was 13 years old. who decides that he wants to be a sculpture and knows that there's no adequate schools for sculpting in the united states. knows that he has to go to yurntion -- europe, has to go o paris. goes over in steerage with mean he saved from working from the time he w 13. and makes it happen.
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and does some of his greatest works here. i just went today again to look at the farragut statutes downtown, one of his signal most accomplished pieces. and the great sherman statute which is up at the corner of 59th and 5th avenue to the entrance of central park. sherman being lead by the goddess of victory which i think is the greatest equestrian statute in america. >>harlie: i go by there over morning when i wk my dog. or morning. >> bh of those we need in paris. if you could turn those statutes up down side, you would see made in paris. >> charlie: some of these people knew each other like james fennimore cooper knew samuel morris. >> very well. they had met first at the whitehouse for a reception for lafayette in 1828. but they knew each other pretty well here in new york. then they go to paris and as often happens as you know when
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you're abroad, when y're in another country, when you travel, you often make friends in a way that is different from other friends. they became friends in paris. cooper was there as a painter, cooper was there as a writer and morris was there as a painter. and morist undertook the most ambitious of any painting. it was the most ambitious painting taken by any american. the interior of the louvre hung with masterpieces of the louvre which he chose himself. and he had to build a contraption of a scaffold in order to get up very high because many of these paintings that he was copying were extremely high. and he would move this from place to place inside the louvre. you could imagine what a spectacle that was. and people would come and watch and it was an attraction in itself. morris went -- cooper went every
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day, every afternoon to sit with morris while he worked, kid him, talk to hi encourage him. but particularly when there was horrific cholera outbreak where peop were dying by the thousands in the streets of paris. all through the spring and summer, 18,000 people died before it was moreover. in paris alone. and morris wrote in letters to his brother he thought he was going to die. anybody who was in the city left. morris was determined to finish the painting and he was running out of money and knew he had no money to come bac cooper didn't leave because his wife was too ill to move. and both of these men knew they could die at any point but yet that friendship, that duty-bound feeling that cooper had to be there with morris every day went the whole way through. >> charlie: lots of artists,
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i mean john singer sgeant was there, right. >> yes, indeed. >> charlie: and also -- did they know each other. >> they did but not very well and they lived in separate worlds even though they were very similar in that eca was wither parents and sh felt she had to look after them. she led a very insulated life as her paintings reflect. marry kasat was a very brave woman not only just gifted painter. but she decided by god she was not going to a woman who paints, she was going to be a painter. >> charlie: who happened to be a woman. >>ho happened to be a woman and of course she becomes the only american who was accepted by the impressionists as one of the -- and taken in with them. and she brought her friendths halfmeyer into the world of the
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impression es art. and ms. halfmary because of her husband's wealth in the sugar empire began painting empressionists paintings when they were inexpensive. she bought manet and monet. she brought back her kind of from pairgs. has bet blackwell the first woman to become an american physician, aga one of the brest people i had the good fortune to right about. then there are people like louie godshock who was the first american ever to perform on stage solo in paris ever and he did it at age 15. >>harlie: paris was the city of life and city of romance but it was a place that appreciated art more than most. >> and appreciated the theatre and opera more than most. several of these young americans
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right away saw that. that the performances that were happening on the stage wer so much better than what they saw ck home. not just because the actors were more talented but because the audience expected more in the way of performance and the actors felt they had to come up to what the audience's expectation. and to be sure, i must say as cooper remarked in something he said, through all the work they were doing, he said there was always the expectation of a little pleasure at the bottom of the cup. and when they found, for example, that wine as cheaper than milk, that the food was out of this world, that life after dark got mighty lively and engaging. they had a time like they never had before. >> charlie: so did they mostly stay for five years or ten years? >> the medical sdents on the average stayed two to three years. and during which they could learn more -- because france was
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a medical -- paris is the medical capital of the wor. and they could arn more in two years than they could in ten yes in practice. there are two big reasons for that. one was in the united states, we were very far behind medically. most american doctors never went to medical school and trained under doctors who never been to medicalchool. but they weresocial stigmas that we of e utmost barrier. one wa most american women would have preferred to diehan to have a man, a doctor examine their body and as a consequence, many american women died. the second thing was that cadavers were either hard to get or frowned upon in use for dissecting frowned upon pie society and they were expensive. you got them on the black market.
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most medical students never got chance to dissect a dead body take apart an arm or leg. in paris there was no problem about that. so they're dissecting bodies was a huge part of their medical education in paris. and they made the rounds with do patients no less than male patients. >> charlie: i've always been fascinated by the idea of first adams, jefferson and anklin. of those three, is it automatic that jefferson loved paris more than the other two or is it hard to tell. >> i d't think he necessaril did love paris. charlie: jefferson. >> jefferson, i don't think. ams spoke french more than he did, more readily than he did. franklin of course took to the way of life immediate. jefferson was there longer. he was there five years. in many ways they were as happy
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as any ars in h life because he was away from slavery. >> charlie: although wasn't hemmings with him. >> yes, but they were free while they we this. >> charlie: you really think he was so troubled by slavery that made him happy he was away. >> yes. i think he knew it was wro. >> why didn't he give it up? >> that's a very good question. we'll never know the answer. i have a feeling it had to do with finances. he was always in debt and his greatest wealth was in his slaves which was true of many southern planters. >> charlie: he died very poor, jefferson. >> broke, he died broke. >> charlie: with fine wine in his cellar. >> yes. and he never stopped speing. he must have been smoh talker when he went to the bank because how he could get away with it. all his life. he was never t in debt. but i think that jefferson wanted to bring something home from paris. he brought home paintings, he
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brought home some 8 0 crates of books. that was a genuine mission, i know it was a genuine mission and that's exactly what these people felt. they were not disenchanted with their country. they weren't the so-called lo generation. >> charlie: they went to learn something and bring something back. >> they weren't alienated from america. again and again they talked about this is going to make me a better american or feel i'm a better american. >> charlie: you're talking about the people at the time of jefferson. >> in the 1900's. they're not going to bring home 80 crates full of stuff but they're going to bring home themselves as a better sculpture, better physician, better politician. >> charlie: i've asked you about this before. when the famous story that jefferson and adams died on the same day. >> yes. >> charlie: who was it that
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reached out to whom. someone told me or you told me that it wasn't either -- i first heard it was adams' wife abigail who was responsible. then i heard no, that she actually -- >> no, it was benjamin rush from philadelphia, the physician who signed the declaration of independence. >> charlie: felt like what. >> he felt those two shld have a reconciation before ty die. and adams agreed right away and wrote to jefferson. >> charlie: adams wrote to jefferson and abigail had nothing to do wi it. >> nothingo do witness. abigail is more angry at jefferson. >> charlie: that's what someone told me. that abigail didn't like jeffern was angry a jeffers more thajohn was. >> she felt he has betrayed her husband because he's thene that put the reporter after adams during the exainl when they were running against each other. >> charlie: on his orders, on jefferson's orders. >> yes. he was the same one who turned
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around and revealed sally hemmings relationship on jefferson because jefferson he felt hadn't rewarded him sufficiently for the job he'd done attacking adams during the campaign. but they were really, they were true friends. they weras different as night and day. and they died on the same day and they didn't day just on any day, they died on the 4th of july, their day. >> charlie: and jefferson was dead. >> jefferson had died that morning. >> charlie: wow. july 4th. >> yes. >> charlie: samuel morris and e telegraph. indeed. >> charlie: the idea came from an experience in paris. >> while he was in ance, yes,
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where they signaled from towers by visual means. and he tught why can'te have sothing that uses electricity that does the same thing. he came home with the idea, he perfected it, it of course was a sensational event, sensational change in history. the advent of the telegraphnd the morris code because he can't work the system unless you had a code. he went back to maris to get a french patent for the telegraph. and while he was there, he met degere who invented photography and degere said it would be okay to bring that back. he came back with photoaphy, not only the masterpiece you painted, the gallery of the louvre which was going to be on
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display in our national gallery this smer. >> chaie: when i was in college i bought the pter of that painting and have had it since then. >> you're kidding. >> charlie: i loved it because of theaintings. >> charlie you're a man ahead of your time. >> charlie: it's true. >> it's one man one life. >> charlie: we'll come back to the stories. this is 9 90's paris life. >> yes, the bookstore is still in business. >> charlie: that's one of my favoritetreets as well. speaking of that this is it, the one on the left. and the next is a schoo mystery emma willard, championship of higher education. >> she was really the champion higher education for wom in america and she came over to paris in order to improve herself as a teacher. so she came to learn to go back to teach so she brought back an improved teaching and she
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brought back a french teacher for her school, the emma willard school in troy, new york which is still there. the teacher's not still there but the school is there. >> charlie: the next is p.t. barnum and tom thumb. >> they took paris by storm. >> charlie: i'll bet they did. >> tom poosch as he was known. and performed in front of the king. to several americans, sensations at theime. one was louie godshock who i just mentioned and the other was george catland the painter of the plains indians who arrived inmaris wit indians and 50 -- 500 of his paintings. no one ever arrived in paris in such a sensation as george catland. >> charlie: what year. >> in the 850's.
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and of course the french were very much taken up with the whole idea of rousseau which is the natural man, the real man and yet people are going off to paint arab chiefs and lions in north africa. so they had never seen the real indians before. and they performed their war dances for the king in the palace, which was a moment to remember. >> charlie: this is augustus. >> that's augustus when he was a student. he went over at 19 years old, and he lived there three different times. and was working very hard each sometime, and the two of the later times when he wasn't a student, there were periods in which he did the farragut statute and the the equestrian statute. >> charlie: at this time when they all came, did they find themselves eventually or soon
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finding themselves seamlessly have with paris as well as parisiennes. >> yes, indeed. thoseho spoke french fluently naturallmade, had more, were more at ease with their fellow french students or fellow french artists. >> charlie: this is ella hugh washburn. >> that's ella hugh wash mush who is story i hope people will take to because he's an amazing american hero. >> charlie: because. >> he was sent to paris by grant as our minister to paris. there was a huge what we call an ambassador today. there was a huge cry that he was ill suited for that he had no experience. he spoke french a little bit but he shown no sign or gift for
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diplomacy. he arrived on the eve of the french war and when the gerns advanced rapidly on paris and everybody was getting out as fast as possible as they could, incling the diplomats of every major pow inthe world, he said i'm going to stay because it's my duty. as long as there are americans here, i should be here. so he was there through the entireiege of paris whe the germans were starving the city into surrendering. took almost five months, awful awful time. and then he stayedn ain for the time reason because the americans were there during the incredibly horrible unbelievably horrible commune of civil war that broke out french killing french in paris. and through all of it, he kept a diary.
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>> charlie: now the last one here is the sherman statute which i look down on my apartment every day, i would pats it every single day of my life living in new york. >> he had trouble with his left leg which is up. he kept telling the people in the studio the big workshop that is required for building a piece that high on that scale, that the legwas too lon and th assured him it was not too long. so they measured it and lo and behold it was too long. he was a genius. what's important with that statute is the goddess of victory was leading him. the model who posed for that figure was an african american. her name was heady anderson, and
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sh was from the carolinas. whether he was doing that to make a point, i don't know i can'say. my guess is he did know, he knew she was africa american and he didn't want to do it for that reason. and her look, if you look at the faces of those two figures, sherman's face is pitted, scowling, scary. it's the face of a madman, truly. and sherman was the one who said war is hell, war is all moonshine. and god is not letting us forget that. and her face, she'she goddess of victory. it's not art world that's glorious, hip hip hooray, it's almost as if she's in a daze and
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can't quite believe it's or and the north has been victorious. >> charlie: the next books going to be about 1913 or not. >> no. the xt book, i have mentioned one of my 27 thoughts about the next book to somebody. >> charlie: and they said. >> by meansdo ihave a idea what my next book's going to be. i'm thinking about a number of possible -- possibilities. charlie: is that one of them. >> that's one of the 27. >> charlie: i that more biography. >> i don't know, charlie. >> charlie: how will you decide. >> i don't know, i don't know how decide. >> charlie: you just wake up one morning. >> something happens and it clinics and that's it. >> charlie: once you make the choice you pretty much stick to it. >> yes. >> charlie: you don't go back and say -- >> yes. i was writing down pennsylvania avenue, early morning rush hour. and i was driving alone and i got to sheridan circle. >> charlie: tell me the
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story, this is wderful. >> and everything stalled at the circle and i was looking over there wondering how many people have any idea who that was. and what a shame. they go around this circle every day thousands of people twi a day. and then gershwin's rhapsody in blue began make on the car radio and i thought oh, i adore gershwin and it was releasing me from the frustration of awe knownst of traffic jam and changing my thoughts up to a point. and i thought hers gershwin just as alive for me now and just as powerful, just as transporting with his gift. and for everybody else, it's as if he were still alive. he is still alive in his musi >> charlie: the power of culture. >> who is more important? general phil sherin or george gershwin. >> chaie: george gershwin. >> they're get important but u
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can't leave gersin out and that's when i decided to go to paris. >> charlie: these are the things we read about you. you're going to take off a year to paint. >> well i'm not going to take off a year. i might paint for a year. i love to paint. >> do you paint now. >> charlie: i paint all the time. when i can. and i dearly love it. >> charlie: are you good? >> i don't know. i'm getting better. >> charlie: how long have you been doing this. >> since i was 12. >> charlie: really. >> all my life. i thought i wanted to be a portrait painter. >> charlie: what happened. you decided to write. >> i thought i wanted to be an architect, i thought i wanted to be an actor, i thought i wanted to be a playwright. >> charlie: so why do you think it turd out theay i did. >> do you ow what i did? i'm going to go to new york and something will happen. just the -- i never thought it was just the way they were going to paris. i doubt if i'm any good, just why they went to paris. >> charlie: find out if i'm any go and maybering
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something back. >> yes, indeed. >> charlie: so when you ok backt this, what is you prdest achievement. >> my family. >> charlie: in fact you say is book is about the bonds of friendship and family. >> yes it is. >> charlie: y also said you had more fun with this book. >> i did. the i never had a better time writing thisook. >> charlie: why? >>'m enjoyed every book. >> charlie: they're all like children aren't they. >> i never think of myself as working. i'm just doing what i do. >> charlie: how many years have you been doing it now? this? >> for 45. >> charlie: it's a good way to spend a life. >> wonderful. and one of the main reass is the good way is the people i've met, people i've worked with. one of the lessons with history, is that almost nothing's accomplished alone. >> charlie: all right tell me this because this is often. do you think that america is a, you know, special country. that america is an exceptional place. >> yes, of course. >> charlie: why doubt that.
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>> opportunity and belief we must be a government of men and women by law not of men and women. we must be a government of law not of men and women because we have freedom of speech, because we have all of sthoation things that those people in the tumult in the near east is going through. every night we watch. ey want what we have and we must never ever take it for granted. and we must remember the basis of who we are and why we've improved in the course of time, in our lifetime, even in a lifetime is education. education, education, education. jefferson said any nation that expects to be ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be. we must keep our education upto
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the highest standards. we're not doing as good a job as we should be and we can't leave it just up to the teachers. we have to take part ourselves as pents, as grandparents. i think our teachers are the most important people in our society. i think they're doing the work that matters most and will count most in the long run. and yes, they should be paid more and yes they should be given more respect and more of our appreciation. showing appreciation for what they do. and helping as much as we c, not criticizing them all the time. >> charlie: so sum up what it is you do. >> i tell the story of who we are, what we've been through, what we've accomplished and what we've failed to accomplh, what we've learned about people who
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were here before we were, to whom we e more, far more than we gerally apprecie. i hope that i make up for the failure that many people had when going to school and understanding the joy of history, the pleasure of history. yes we should know history because it makes us a better citizen, yes we should know history because it will help us in roles of leadership and responsibility. but we should also know our history because it's part of the experience of being alive. why seal yourself off from that other time. it would be as if you said, there's going to be no more music in my life, there's going to be no more art or theatre in my life oroetry or dance. no, you wouldn't be human, you
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wouldn't be alive. and so to understand how much we have that others made possible isn't just an oblition, it's part of the enjoyment being human. >> charlie: so your epitat should say american, historian, the master of the american narrative. >> charlie if you were to write the epitath, that would be it. >> charlie: what else. >> that i was a good father, husband, brother and grandfather. >> charlie: it always comes to that doesn't it. >> yes, it is.
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your family, your friends. and the more u're looking back from a distance i am now, the more you realize that. you've been told that all your life but you have no idea. >> charlie: the closer you get to the end, no matter how far away it is, the more you feel -- >> the other night i ran into a night named herm coalmeyer and he and i used to go off to vassercollege chasing the girls. i haven't seen him in 50 years the fact i could ride with him to see the girl of my dreams who is my wife is one of the reasons i think i wound up being the husband of rosalie barns. he was a terrific guy in college and i saw him just yesterday here in new york and he is still a terrific guy. >> charlie: it was just like
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yesterday. >> and it was one of the thrills of my life to see him again and to tell him how much the part he played at that time. weren't aware of all these things then. but you see it in perspective. to tell him how much that all meant to me. just as it's been to see a teacher that changed my life after 57 years or more, still teaching out in cifornia. john hubbard. john hubbard came into the classroom. he was an instructor, graduate student. he said i'm not ing to hold you accountable for any dates. don't spend any time memorizing dates or quotaons. you could look those up. that's what books are for. but boy is it that you understand what happened, why and to whom. it was as if he had thrown open the window and said you can mp up on this window sill and you
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can fly. changed my life. i mel him again in california and i realized he pointed that he was that gradue student he's been at usc for a long time. he was the president for u. he was our ambassador to india. i ew none of the that. but i had the chance charlie to thank him from the bottom of my heart. he changed my lynch. and i have a son who i a teacher. teachesnglish in high school. and i'm so proud that that's what he's doing, so proud that he is having that kind of affect on the students he's teaching. and having, making his mark as a citizen, as a human being that way. >> charlie any regrets? >> me? >> charlie: yes. >> no. >> charlie: no. >> oh, some, of course. >> charlie: no great
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obsession, there's no great goal, there was no great sort of untain that you didn't climb. >> the best decision i ever made was to go to washington to though a job i had here in new york, good job, to the winds and go to washington in. new kennedy administration. when he said ask not what your country can do for you but wt youcan do for your country. i took that to hea. i went down and got a job at the usia when edward meryl was thee and opened upy life beyond journalism for me. at's when i found the photographs taken after the flood and i want to read more bit. i took books o and they didn't, they weren't very good. so i decided why don't you write the book you would like to read. and do you know where i first
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heard that idea from thornton wilder when i was in college. they asked me how i get my material i said i write it -- that's the spirit i entered in writing my first book. >> charlie: the johns town blood was the first book, mornings on horseback, brave exam williams, john add williams an no th erican journey. it continues to be a remarkable life and a remarkable opportunity u have had to share with us our story and other stories, people who have, that we didn't kw and people we get to know better. people who have touched our lives are people who have done histic thing that simply doing
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them made them iortant. you are served us well, my friend. >> thank you. that means a lot to me. thank you very much. >> charlie: david mccullough, the greater journey, americans in paris. thank u for joining us for this hour. see you next time. captning sponsored by rose communications
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captioned by media access group at wgbh acce.wgbh.org
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